Egg processing could be an answer to overcoming the periodic gluts in supply that occur in some egg markets or for overcoming periods when eggs are not able to reach consumers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought back the old problem within the egg supply chain, particularly in Africa, of producers not being able to get their products to where they are needed.
Take, for example, Nigeria, Africa’s largest egg producing country. Nigeria produces approximately 650,000 metric tons of eggs per year, ranking it globally in 23rd among egg producers behind Thailand but ahead of Canada.
The closure of the country’s schools for an extended period has seen the local market unable to absorb the egg sector’s production. It is estimated that, per head, school children consume in excess of the national average of 70 eggs per person.
However, the closure of schools has not been the only issue for the Nigerian egg sector. Farmers have also experienced difficulties in transporting their daily production to urban centers where most consumers live. This disconnect between supply and demand has resulted in price decreases of 25%.
Gluts are a chronic problem in some countries where people tend to consume fewer eggs during certain periods of the year. However, the pandemic has compounded the effects of over-supply, impacting not only the sustainability of egg production but also food security.
While programs could be developed to convince consumers of the nutritional value of consuming eggs regularly, rather than only at certain times of the year, changing consumer habits is extremely difficult and costly.
Investing in egg processing may be the answer to addressing the chronic gluts that occur in many countries. Egg processing started in the late 1800s with the production of powders as a way to transform an abundance of eggs into products that could be shipped at room temperature across oceans and continents.
For this reason, in the early 1900s egg powder production quickly shifted form North America to China, where cost of production and an abundance of eggs made processing a perfect fit.
Today, in addition to egg powders, processed products include fresh and frozen liquid eggs, hard cooked eggs and numerous further processed products, such as omelettes, egg wraps, egg bites and sandwiches.
If egg processing equipment manufacturers were to invest more in the development of small, stand-alone units that would be easy to install, operate, clean and maintain, their contribution to the egg sector would be significant.
Egg producers could form cooperatives or joint ventures to gather sufficient funds to build processing plants, and governments should consider investing, or at least providing more support and incentives, to develop their egg processing sector. This would guarantee farmers a decent return for their hard work and contribute to food security in many countries.